Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In genealogy, the smallest discoveries can make your day

One of the great things about genealogy is that sometimes the smallest of discoveries can make your day. 

As I've been tidying up my database, I've been looking again at many of the first birth, death and marriage certificates that I obtained. I'm spotting details that escaped my notice at the time, but which are are now tying up loose ends, or giving me new leads to follow. Every one of them, although minor, is exciting to me in it's own way.

More children?!
Here's an example of what I mean. In addition to their two living children, Robert Couper (1825-1898) and Isabella Miller (c1826-1908) had two deceased sons and one deceased daughter by 1856. Why did I not enter that into my database? 

As it happens I had already identified two of these young children, born in Scotland, who I supposed must have died before the family came to Australia as they weren't on the ship and don't show up in Australian records. This little piece of information confirms my theory. It also adds a place in my database for the other son who I haven't (yet?) been able to find in records. I don't know if he was born in Scotland or in Australia. While sad to see the level of infant mortality, it is somehow comforting to think that in a small way this nameless child is not forgotten.

Relatives in Australia?!
Another morsel of information that I had somehow overlooked was on the 1867 marriage certificate of my ancestors James Black (c1835-1896) and Frances Gertrude Lewis (c1836-1899). One of the witnesses had the surname Lewis. Did Frances have relatives living in Australia?! To give myself some credit, I had entered that fact in my database, it just hadn't sunk into my mind. When I rediscovered the signature a few days ago I was determined to work it out. This is what it looks like:


Can you make out the first name of the top witness? I sought help on Twitter. I think I must have picked the wrong time of day, or possibly of year, as I had only one reply (thanks Bobby) but no answer. I thought I knew what some of the letters were, and what others could be, but I couldn't make out a name. 

Success came when I started running wildcard searches over the Australian birth, death and marriage indexes on www.Ancestry.com.au. I didn't get it first try, but finally an exact search for Min* Lewis gave me the name. Minchin Lewis. Not a name I had heard of before, but all the lumps and bumps in the signature fit. He doesn't seem to be a brother for Frances as I had hoped, I will have to go back further to find out if he was related. The thing that struck me is that both Minchin and Frances named their first born sons James Abbott. Coincidence? 

Still more work to do, but this little achievement made my day!

5 comments:

  1. Shelley,
    Totally agree - we need to revisit old sources.
    Just this week I looked at a 1901 census record again and in the household return there was an Alice Schofield - relationship sister. I hadn't initially put her in my database.
    As she wasn't the sister of our ancestor named Ball then perhaps she was a sister of his second wife Fanny for whom I didn't have a surname. I rechecked the marriage indexes and Bingo - I found her marriage to the Ball ancestor. A little more sleuthing on censuses identified parents and siblings.... and I wonder why my database keeps growing!

    I am still learning that I should record all facts, even though they may not at first appear relevant, when I have a resource at hand.

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  2. Well done on getting the name Minchin - such a uncommon name and you've done well to solve it.

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  3. It's always great to find something we missed the first time.

    I only recently discovered my Minchin line and have not done a whole lot with it. I'll be interested to see if you can take your line back (I have to believe that Minchin as a first name will lead to an earlier generation surname) and whether or not it will connect to mine in England and Ireland.

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  4. @Apple - I'll let you know if I come across Minchin as a surname in my tree.

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  5. It's always great to find something we missed the first time.

    I only recently discovered my Minchin line and have not done a whole lot with it. I'll be interested to see if you can take your line back (I have to believe that Minchin as a first name will lead to an earlier generation surname) and whether or not it will connect to mine in England and Ireland.

    ReplyDelete